Sunday, April 15, 2018

Teotihuacan - outside Mexico City

Teotihuacan, in the State of Mexico, about 29 miles northeast of Mexico City, was established about 100 BCE, although the earliest buildings date to about 200 BCE. It continued to grow until about 250 CE. The largest pyramid, the Pyramid of the Sun, was completed about 100 CE. Teotihuacan was sacked and burned about 550 CE. There is some speculation that an eruption of a volcano in El Salvador in 535 devastated the agriculture and caused the collapse. At its height it had a population of 150,000 or more and was the sixth largest city in the world. It covers an area of about 32 square miles and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. 
The Pyramid of the Moon (back left), Pyramid of the Sun (center) and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent is to the right of where I was standing. 
Its early history and the origin of the founders is uncertain. it appears that it was a multi-ethnic culture. The name "Teotihuacan" was given by the Nahuatle speaking Aztecs many years after it was destroyed, and has been interpreted as the "place of those who have the road of the gods." The Aztecs believed that the gods created the universe at Teotihuacan and adopted aspects of its culture and claimed a common ancestry.
The gigantic Pyramid of the Sun. 

It is staggering to have this in the Americas, larger than the pyramids of Egypt. 
There is a main road known as the "Avenue of the Dead" which was about 44 yards wide and 2.4 miles long. At one end of the Avenue is the Pyramid of the Moon and toward the other end is the Temple of the Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl. The Pyramid of the Sun, the third largest pyramid in the world (after the Great Pyramid of Cholula and the Great Pyramid of Giza), is found along the Avenue as are many smaller platforms that the Aztecs thought were tombs, thus providing the name Avenue of the Dead. However, scholars have determined that they were not tombs, but platforms topped by temples.
This map shows the layout of Teotihuacan.
Looking down the Avenue of the Dead. The Pyramid of the Moon is back left, the Pyramid of the Sun is just to the right of it, and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent is back and off to the right. 
The Pyramid of the Moon. Unlike the Pyramid of the Sun, which was off by itself, the Pyramid of the Moon was flanked by stepped platforms along the Avenue of the Dead. 

The Temple of the Feathered Serpent Quetzalcoatl is in an area the Spanish named the Citadel. It was in a large plaza surrounded by temples and was the religious and political center of Teotihuacan.
This shows part of the plaza before the Temple of the Feathered Serpent which is at the back. The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is actually the rounded structure barely visible behind the second stepped structure. 
The Temple of the Feathered Serpent behind the stepped structure. The stepped structure was built later to cover up the Temple. 
My favorite part of Teotihuacan. The protruding heads out of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. 
From the top of the stepped structure, looking at the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. 
The figure to the left looks like an ancient variation of Sponge Bob Squarepants, or a modern gizmo with washers as eyes. To the right, of course, is the feathered serpent. 
A serpent.
Cement inlaid with rocks.
The main structures, including the pyramids, were painted a dark red. Small spots of the color still remain.
This reddish color on rocks is some of the original coloring on the Pyramid of the Sun. 
The builders constructed raised beds of ground above the surrounding swampy ground which were great for agriculture. Channels of water were formed between the raised beds and canoe traffic could transport food around the city. Thousands of people lived in areas on both sides of the Avenue in what are called large apartment buildings, presumably built of stone.
Pyramid of the Sun
No texts are known to exist from Teotihuacan. It was a home to many potters, jewelers and craftsmen and produced many obsidian artifacts. 
Pyramid of the Moon.
The people of Teotihuacan worshiped eight gods. The primary deity was the great goddess, but there was also the storm god, the feathered serpent, the old god, the war serpent, the netted jaguar, the pulque god and the fat god.
The feathered serpent.
They practiced human sacrifice. It is believed that human were sacrificed as dedication rites when buildings were constructed or expanded. The victims were probably enemy warriors. Some were decapitated, some had their hearts removed, some were hit over the head, others were buried alive. Some animals were also considered mythical and buried alive in cages, including cougars, a wolf, a falcon, an owl and venomous snakes.
Mural of a cougar from a pyramid along the Avenue of the Dead near the Pyramid of the Moon. 


  1. A lot of mystery still remains. Recently graves of priests and priestesses were found at the site. Also, archaeologists just found a tunnel that goes all the way from the temple of the moon to the sun and it is filled with stuff. It will take them years to unearth it all.

  2. This is definitely a dynamic archeological site. I cant believe how much it has been developed since I last saw it in 1979. It's definitely a place I'd love to go back to.

  3. Stunning details preserved in the architecture. Blown away they let people walk on these things. Certainly details that break the primitive narrative we like to impose on such civilizations.

    Great pics!

  4. And happy birthday :)